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Chortke Grill brings posh Persian dining to Village Gate

New kid on the upscale block shakes up fine dining with saffron, sumac, and more


352 N. Goodman St., Rochester 


Chortke has been serving the best Persian food in a fast casual setting for more than five years now. A few months ago, the management decided to pivot into the upscale/fine dining space—a natural fit for the rich and lavish origins of Persian cuisine. They closed the place over the fall to completely revamp the interior and the menu in order to bring Rochester an (actually) new take on the upscale dining experience. 

I am not one to wax lyrical about the interior of restaurants, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Chortke’s utterly stunning redesign from the initial fast casual concept to modern upscale. One of the owners is an artist well-versed in interior design, and it shows. When you walk in, you feel like you just stepped into a Persian garden. The warm neutral of terracotta, the gentle pinks, and peaceful greens create a modern yet simple space. There is a small golden water feature in the middle along with greenery, adding to the peaceful vibe. There are three large paintings of women—an ode to the brave Iranian women who are still protesting for their rights (I later found out these were painted by the artist-owner). The meticulous attention to detail, from the pink and green floral tile to the vintage-looking water glasses is remarkable. After you are seated in the “upscale-and-restful chic” (pending trademark) dining room, it is time to review the menu! Where to start? The answer? Wings. While “wings” and “upscale” don’t typically coexist, the grilled saffron chicken wings at Chortke show you how it can make sense. The wings start in a rich marinade and then are slowly grilled to smoky perfection. A black tahini yogurt drizzle adds a nutty and visually beautiful note. At the risk of being blasphemous . . . Buffalo wing who? 

The salads here cover the gamut of your taste preferences: the date and endive salad for those who prefer a slightly sweet finish or the cucumber salad for a refreshing and familiar note. Last but definitely my favorite is the beet salad. The plate arrives with a light mix of beets and arugula atop a fluorescent pink sauce otherwise known as borani laboo. The pink comes from cooked beets blended with yogurt. The use of citrus and mint in this salad lifts the earthiness of the beet. You are unlikely to taste another salad like this around our city, so embrace the opportunity. 

The mains may look familiar—salmon, chicken, lamb. However, Chortke combines its Persian persuasion with its dedication to procuring the highest quality proteins to make each of these familiar dishes new again. 

Let’s take the salmon; Chortke’s dish features Faroe Island salmon flown in weekly. It is paired with slightly sweet caramelized napa, tart pomegranate, and crisp green apple. Then it is finished with herby chermoula (chimichurri’s North African/Middle Eastern cousin) and za’atar (nutty and herby Middle Eastern spice blend). However, when you take a bite of this dish, you get harmony where the seasonings meld to become something singular. 

Personally, I would vote for the kubideh kebab to be Chortke’s signature dish. I know what you are thinking—all these remarkably prepared proteins and you pick the kebab? This is not your (unexpectedly Middle Eastern) grandmother’s kebab. This kubideh kebab involves a secret meat blend, secret spices, and a secret technique to keep it juicy. The spices used are mild, so the focus stays on the smoky and moist meat. It is topped liberally with tart sumac and served on a bed of beautifully fragrant saffron rice. 

If you are more of a poultry person, try the Chicken Chop. An airline breast is carefully seasoned with turmeric and other secret spices and seared, then placed atop of shirin polo (“jeweled rice”— basmati rice adorned with barberry, pistachio, herbs, and crisp carrot ribbons). Even if you are not typically one who orders chicken, the Chicken Chop deserves your attention for the melody of flavors that are familiar and new all at once. 

No meal is complete without vegetables. (Right? Your doctor is watching.) Chortke’s vegetable dishes are designed to be shared with the table, but you may not want to. I hemmed and hawed over highlighting the brussels sprouts or cauliflower. Since it is March and we want spring, I suggest you try the cauliflower. Roasted to a balanced “tender with bite” texture, the cauliflower florets sit on a whipped lemon goat cheese that will have you fighting for the last velvety bite. However, if it is still snowing, go with the hearty brussels sprouts; the pop of pomegranate and warmth of baharat (lightly smoky spice blend) will still lift your spirits. 

Lastly (but perhaps should have been firstly): dessert. Chortke offers a housemade pistachio panna cotta that perfectly captures the essence of Persian sweets in the form of a luxuriously creamy dessert. The sour cherry reduction under the panna cotta is a pleasant, sweet tang. The dried rose petals and crushed pistachios on top will guarantee your camera “eats” this gorgeous dessert before you take a bite. 

In a city with countless restaurants thriving on the formulaic mix of pasta and pizza, Chortke stands on its own with pride. To take the path of lesser known is a risk in Rochester’s restaurant scene, and Chortke has done it with fantastically prepared dishes that do not compromise on their Persian roots. I hope you get to experience it yourself soon! Nooshe joon! (aka bon appetit!)

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